Italian Pasta Sauce Recipes That Rival a Restaurant

We’re spilling secrets to whip up restaurant-caliber marinara, Bolognese, Alfredo, and so much more.

Fresh Tomato Spaghetti Sauce
Photo: Andy Lyons

From marinara to Bolognese and Alfredo to browned butter, these Italian pasta sauce recipes can dress up any noodle, gnocchi, zoodle, or act as a bread dipping sauce. We're dishing up our best pasta sauce recipes, including restaurant copycat white sauce pasta recipes, homemade pesto, better-than-jarred red sauce pasta recipes, and beyond.

01 of 12

Copycat Alfredo Sauce

Copycat Alfredo Sauce
Cupcake Diaries

We’re sharing our ultimate white sauce pasta recipe that’s a dead ringer for Olive Garden Alfredo! After whipping up this copycat recipe, we were shocked to discover how much flavor you could coax out of a few refrigerator and pantry staples in a mere 10 minutes. That’s right: The entire meal can be on the table in 15 minutes or less, including the pasta cooking time. “My family loved it,” raves one reviewer. “I have added grilled chicken, shrimp, and even broccoli. This is so super easy!”

02 of 12

Puttanesca Pasta Sauce

Puttanesca Pasta Sauce
Blaine Moats

If you like briny, punchy foods like olives, capers, and pickles, you’ll likely love this classic Italian pasta sauce recipe. Puttanesca sauces vary based on where they’re made and what ingredients are available during the season, but they typically include a foundation of tomatoes, olives, anchovies, and oil. Our preferred puttanesca includes all of the above, plus spicy crushed red pepper flakes, sweet brown sugar, tangy balsamic and lemon, and a full cup of fresh oregano.

03 of 12

Vegetarian Bolognese

cast iron pan of Vegetarian Bolognese
Blaine Moats

The rich, hearty flavors in this homemade pasta sauce recipe will fool everyone into thinking you simmered pot of beefy Bolognese for hours. It looks and smells just remarkably similar to a Bolognese one of our Test Kitchen’s recipe developers savored in Bologna, Italy. Only you need to know that mushrooms and plant-based meat stand in for 100% of the beef—and it only took an hour to execute. A mix of white wine, cream, fire-roasted tomatoes, and a Parmesan rind set the scene for the savory sauce.

04 of 12

Meaty Ragu

Meaty Ragu with Pasta
Scott Little

This rich homemade pasta sauce recipe delivers a one-two punch of savory meaty qualities, plus meat-like mushrooms. Chopped pancetta teams up with a variety of veggies to get things started, then ground beef joins the party to add a protein punch and even more flavor. Finish with tomato sauce, a splash of red wine, and a spoonful of balsamic vinegar, and allow to simmer as it thickens. This is one of the best pasta sauce recipes when you’re in the mood for a stick-to-your ribs meal.

05 of 12

Alfredo with Pumpkin and Kale

Macaroni Alfredo with Pumpkin and Kale
Hannah Bigot

Creamy pasta sauce recipes often take a bit of time and tinkering to polish up, but not this squash-supplemented option. This sauce can be hitting your table just 30 minutes from now, and it’s a surprisingly well-balanced meal to boot. Naturally sweet, ready-to-use canned pumpkin lends nutrition and a lusciously silky quality that plays nicely with the white wine, evaporated milk, and garlic. Finish with sage, kale, and Parmesan and you’ll have a fast and fresh dinner that’s the epitome of comfort food.

06 of 12

Marinara Sauce

Marinara sauce in dish over rigatoni noodles
Adam Albright

If you’ve been disappointed by one too many watery, far-from-flavorful jarred marinaras, allow this red sauce pasta recipe to act as a refreshing change of pace. Opting for two different varieties of canned tomatoes, plenty of garlic and onion, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper, we’ve dialed-in the seasonings so it can act as a beautiful addition to noodle dishes, pizzas, as a breadstick dip, and beyond. Once you’ve mastered the classic marinara, don’t miss our creamy vodka, garden vegetable, and meatball variations.

Related: Canned Food Recipes For When You Want to Cook From Your Pantry

07 of 12

Browned Butter Sauce

browned butter sauce

BHG / Sonia Bozzo

Browning butter takes 8 minutes or less, and is a chef secret to lend a lovely extra nutty element to sweet and savory dishes. For this savory application, all it takes is a stick of butter, a clove of garlic, a spoonful of chopped fresh herbs, and a bit of time. The result: One of the best pasta sauce recipes for gnocchi or ravioli. (Try it tossed with popcorn, too!)

08 of 12

Cashew Cream Pasta Sauce

Fork of pasta with cashew cream sauce

Our Test Kitchen’s best trick to score a silky pasta cream sauce recipe without any dairy? Cashews! For a fully vegan dinner that sure doesn’t taste like it’s missing a thing, blend soaked cashews with vegetable broth, then simmer that with sauteed shallots, herbs, garlic, and white wine until thickened. Toss with pasta and you’ll be tempted to give this a twirl every pasta night.

09 of 12

Fresh Tomato Spaghetti Sauce

Fresh Tomato Spaghetti Sauce
Andy Lyons

Sure, you could can tomatoes or freeze tomatoes in their pure, unadorned state. But we’re fond of getting a head start on dinner prep by mixing fresh tomatoes, aromatic vegetables, herbs, and spices to preserve summer flavors ready to twist open and enjoy any time of year. Although it’s simple to recreate, fans deem this one of the best pasta sauce recipes to come out of the BHG Test Kitchen; it’s garnered a five-star rating.

10 of 12

Creamy Vino Sauce

Creamy Vino Sauce
Scott Little

Even home cooks who have struggled to ace other creamy pasta sauce recipes swear by this streamlined, beginner-friendly option that shows how to cooking with wine, cream, shredded cheese, and herbs with restaurant-style results. Although it’s ready in 20 minutes and the instructions are one step (seriously!), it is “easy, very tasty, and a breeze to make,” according to one BHG fan. “I will probably use this recipe for Christmas dinner for the family because you can make it ahead and store it for use in a couple days. This was delicious!”

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No one will leave the table hungry when you top your noodles with this Italian pasta sauce recipe. Stoked with ground pork, ground beef, pancetta, a variety of veggies, plus whole milk and white wine—and of course tomatoes—this nicely-spiced, substantial sauce makes a statement. Since it has such heft, we recommend pairing this classic pasta sauce with a sturdy cut like pappardelle, rigatoni, penne, or tagliatelle. 

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Basil Pesto

bowl of basil pesto with olive oil
Andy Lyons

The next time you’re blessed with a bouquet of fresh basil, don’t stress about dreaming up several dishes to use it as a garnish. Instead, blitz up a big batch of this garlicky, basil-focused pasta sauce recipe. It puts a whopping 2 cups of firmly-packed herbs to delectable use. In tandem with pine nuts, Parmesan, garlic, and oil, this makes an ideal pesto pasta topping. Refrigerate any leftovers for up to one week to use as a pizza sauce, scrambled egg mix-in, or a condiment for your favorite grilled or baked protein.

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